You know that you are becoming more centered when the following happens to you and you quickly gather your things up and go on your way as if nothing crazy occurred:
I was riding home tonight on my bicycle, listening to my MP3 player, nice gloves on, and a leather jacket; my usual satchel slung across one shoulder and riding along my right hip. I had a grocery bag of stuff (a black t-shirt, a pair of white socks, a bagel with cream cheese in a plastic baggie, and a 24-oz bottle of spring water *un-opened*). It was swinging from my right handlebar, as I was singing to one of the songs on my MP3 player…maybe Chicago’s “Look Away”, when a very strange and sudden series of events pulled me out of my goofy bliss.
The front tire locked up, and I rose up in the air, powerless to stop from being smashed down to the pavement of the parking lot of this liquor store, nor from sliding across the gravel on my palms and the meat of the underside of my forearms. Luckily, I had several layers of jackets covering those arms, and thick gloves. As all this was happening, I could feel that the front wheel was torquing around to the side and becoming inverted, which was causing the bike to kick out to the side, pulling my feet one way, and my head, the other. Part of me was calmly observing this, and commenting, “Oh, that’s interesting…but I wonder why the front tire stopped in the first place? – Did I hit a rock? I didn’t FEEL a rock. Couldn’t have been a rock, then…”…this inane, insanely calm voice in my head just kept going on and on, as if it were merely watching a fascinating movie. The other part of me was far less collected -“Oh shit, Oh SHIT, what do I do? Slam on the brakes? Cover my face? My hands are still on the handlebars! What if I break my neck? Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!….”
How it’s possible for a person to have two conversations going on in their head, simultaneously in such circumstances, is beyond me; but there I was, and then there I was, plastered on the ground, probably all of three seconds later.
What’s amazing, is how after about 5-10 seconds, after initially thinking the worst, my mind immediately bounced back, surveyed the damage – no broken bones, some scrapes, but nothing too severe, and the bike seemed ok. When I got up, the MP3 player had slipped from my pocket and was lit up while dangling near the ground, being supported just by the strength of the ear buds still crammed in my ears and the slender cables attached to them. I carefully put that MP3 player back in my pocket – a different song was playing now, “Big Baller, Shot Caller”, and I was jamming out to the lyrics and dancing a bit as I gathered my stuff together.
The plastic bag was completely torn to shreds and I immediately spotted the culprit….those pair of socks had somehow wedged themselves on either side of the brakes on my front tire. The bag must have swung forward, got sucked in and then the socks must have gotten grabbed by the forward-moving tire, and then the two together, become like brakes, themselves, when those socks pinched down between the top of the fork and the tire.
I noticed that it only took me about 7 seconds to come up with a solution as to how to carry the rest of my stuff back home: I snatched the t-shirt, stuffed the rest of those things in between the layers of fabric, (front and back of shirt) like a pocket; then tied the short sleeves twice…in an overhand knot; then an underhand one, in order to tie them securely. I wrapped the bottom of the shirt around my hand and let it dangle down off of my right handlebar – this time, though, making sure that it didn’t swing into the path of the tire.
What’s really amazing here, is that this is real-world evidence that my mediation practice has practical benefits when it comes to staying calm and centered in the middle of an unexpected crisis. Now different people may have varying notions as to what a crisis means to them; but for me, it was a sudden, very dangerous problem that created another issue immediately afterward; and I feel that I handled it with a tremendous amount of grace and clear thinking, all things considered.
To me…this is the TRUE power of meditation…giving you space to stay calm and in control of your emotions and thoughts, even when faced with the unexpected and the frightening, and possibly traumatic.
I have been diagnosed with PTSD from both childhood stuff, and from a stint in the United States Marines, as well as, about 5 years living on the streets through each winter. This single event – (the abrupt being thrown from my bike right after I had been nestled warmly in thoughts of easy safety and security) – should have triggered my PTSD; and possibly even should have turned me into a basket case; yet it did not.
Often times when people meditate, they cannot detect the transformation occurring within themselves. They may think that nothing is happening and that this meditation business is a complete waste of time. But if they would stick with it – then, in time they would learn that it might be one of the single most effective methods of reversing lifelong behavior patterns and harmful ways of reacting, and all the extra emotional baggage that comes with going through an ordeal.
My first exposure to meditation was when Master Lenchus, in our Shotokan Karate class, had us kneel, and bow our heads down until our foreheads touched the floor, and close our eyes while he prayed something in reverence to the four elements, Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. This seemed a very odd thing to do, but it’s what I remember. When I was younger, I couldn’t figure out why he would make such a fuss about this particular practice. I mean, I was here to learn how to fight, right? How the heck was closing my eyes and breathing in and out and not moving a muscle gonna keep me from getting my ass kicked in high school? I just didn’t get it. And I wouldn’t….for years to come. But what Master Lenchus taught us by example in that dojo, planted a seed in my young heart, and a question in my young mind….”What’s all this meditation stuff really about?”
Over a period of years and years, I kept coming back to that one question over and over again, until, one day, I decided to try it. And even though, in the beginning, I started and stopped and started, and kept up that pattern for years – I eventually gained the self-discipline to stick with the practice and, today, it is an integral part of almost every day for me.
Today, I have a very deep and meaningful meditation, which helps relax my body and mind, re-energize my spirit and heart, and bring great focus and clarity to my goals in life. But the most miraculous thing I can say that this meditation practice has given me, is a re-wiring of the neural pathways in my brain and my body, and a short-circuit of the past fight-or-flight reactionary impulses which have consistently led to doing the wrong thing and bringing strife and misery into my life over and over again.
I feel that I have gained great understanding, wisdom, discernment, empathy and a sense of detached non-judgment of others.
And so it is with great gratitude, I say this:
“Thank you, Master Lenchus, for taking the time each and every day that we went to that dojo – and instructing us to slow down, be silent, and be still, in order to show us how to meditate. You showed by example and by consistency, that this was very important to you, and should be for us. I don’t know where I would be, or what kind of man I might have become, had I not met you.”
David Lee Madison, Jr.
~Nate – street name
~KnavetheMage on Twitter
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Sunday, December 22, 2013 – 22:38